I never expected to live and work in Australia. Coming to Australia is a rare opportunity since it is quite expensive for most Indonesians. Many Indonesians never get the opportunity to go overseas. I also was not born in a wealthy family. In fact, if I wanted to play badminton with my dad, we always had to rely on second-hand racquets and shuttlecocks. Yet, the first time I found about this country was when I played the Monopoly board game with my cousins. The version of the game I played had Sydney as one of the locations. I don’t know why, but I was interested in owning a spot with the picture of the Opera House on it. However, I never thought I would have the opportunity to actually work here.
Every time I heard about Australia, I used to think that this is just a country ‘down under’ without anything of interest to me. I just thought of it as a really large desert with a few cities scattered around it. I also thought that Australia is where dangerous animals come from, well, that’s what the wildlife documentaries always showed. In addition, this might sound racist but I used to assume that Australian were just like other white people who always behaved so arrogantly. Bule, that’s how Indonesian refer to many foreigners. The term is pejorative and implies that they’re greedy, impolite and selfish. It was alright to befriend with them, but as many other Indonesian, I used to be more comfortable with people from the same background. Anyway.
When I was settling into Melbourne, I met two Australians wearing red-white-blue jumper [i.e. the Krakatoas jumper] in a traditional dance rehearsal with one cultural community in Melbourne. This lead me to ask them what sports they are participated in. They told me they played an Australian sport called “footy” or Aussie rules football and they also told me some general points about it. However, I didn’t bother to ask further about that because I did not actually understand about what it was and how to play it, but in the same time I was so glad to know that this country has their own specific sport. Gradually, I would also learn how the game is highly valued by many Australians throughout the country.
The coach of Krakatoas and visionary, Iain Shearer, is a precious petal
I nearly forgot about that little footy conversation with my new friends. Until one day, there were some students at my school where I work who were having a footy-related-conversation. They were talking about it so excitedly, I decided to jump into their conversation. They were talking about how great the teams that they support were, their teams good players, and some other footy matters that I couldn’t quite work out. I was so impressed with how these young boys were proud of their local teams. What I mean is, among lots of sports that are practiced all over the world, they were proudly choose to talk about their national sport: a sport that isn’t played professionally outside of Australia. I never saw this thing happen in Indonesia. Anyway, they asked me which team that I support in the AFL. I couldn’t answer that good question because I had no idea about the different teams and I didn’t really know what the ‘AFL’ was and what Australian rules was. I quickly learned that the Australian Football League is the highest league of professional Australian rules football.
I told them that I hadn’t decided upon a team that I’d ‘go for’ and I also said that I’d have a think about it. They suggested me to have a really deep think about that because it would give a really big impact to my life. However, I had no idea what they’re talking about at that time. I mean, how could it give a big impact to my life? Could supporting one team over another, really matter that much? I have learned that it does.
Long story shorted, I got more and more interested in trying this new game. After all, sport is about playing, not just watching. I tried to find a way to join a community or club that hold training for newcomers but it was really hard because at my age they should’ve already mastered the basic skills. I almost decided to be only a spectator of this sport until one day a friend of mine invited me to join the club in which she plays. Apparently, the name of the club is “The Krakatoas” [photos above and below], the name of a great volcano in Indonesia. This was such a great news for me, and, it became more interesting when I found out that many Indonesian actually played footy in this club. Not only was the team mixed in terms of gender, it was mixed in terms of nationality.
We take ourselves really seriously, well, sorta. LOL.
I had a really great time training and getting along with lots of new friends in the club. There are so many unforgettable memories that I experienced through this sport. I still remember how Daniel, one of the first lad I know in the team, taught me how to kick and to mark the footy. Even though at the end of the session I kicked the air and ended up getting a “falcon” for marking the ball carelessly. My hands will still be trembling every time I think about my first in-stadium experience watching a 1-point-difference match between Hawthorn and Collingwood. I could still remember how Bayu, my mate who unfortunately goes Collingwood, was so upset about the result that he did not want to talk to me for almost a week. I learned that this is normal for Collingwood fans.
I also laugh out loud when I remember the experience of joining a “serious” local footy team’s training nearby the place where I am living. I was literally out of breath and my body wasn’t ready for that but it’s not something that I regret. On the contrary, everyone in the team, who were Australian, tapped me on my back every time we finished a drill. They had just known me that night but they treated me like I was their real team mate. They didn’t care about how bad my kicking was or how shite my handballing was. These lads were really supportive which exactly the same with what is happening in the Krakatoas.
Playing footy has given me so much fun. There have been great lessons about sport, making friends and fitting into Melbourne. I’ve been living in Aussie-land for almost a year, and I somehow feel the need to apologize to all my Aussie friends in regards to my careless presumption and silly stereotyping about Australians. I must say that Australia is really welcoming to everyone no matter who you are, where you are from and what your status is. Through footy, I found the other point of view of seeing different cultures from another nation. This, my friend, is the beauty of sports that you might not find somewhere else.
*Photos sorta courtesy of Krakatoas Facebook page.